There was once a man who thought that people didn’t like him. He was not sure why, but he could see it in their eyes, he could feel it in their looks and he could sense it in the way they tended to avoid him. It wasn’t everyone that treated him in this way, but there were far too many people that did for his own liking.
One day, whilst walking to work, along the bank of the river, he was feeling particularly depressed about the situation. Just then, a passing stranger called out a hearty, “good morning” as he was passing.
Rather than simply returning the greeting, as he would normally have done, he felt so depressed that he looked straight at the stranger and answered, “what’s good about it?”
The stranger looked a little taken aback by the unanticipated reply, but after only a moment’s hesitation, he said,
“Well, just look at the sky, for one thing. It is a beautiful day … and take a look at those swans over there, swimming along the river. Don’t they make your heart want to sing?”
“No. They don’t,” came the reply.
“Well it seems to me that you got out of the wrong side of the bed today. What could possibly be so wrong with your life that causes you to not see these things?”
For a moment, the man thought about just walking off, thinking that there would be no point in talking any further. But, for some reason, he began to tell the stranger about his problem. They were talking for quite some time before the stranger felt that he understood the man’s problem.
“So, you think that nobody likes you?” he said, at last.
“No. I know that nobody likes me,” replied the man.
“Well, that’s where you are wrong my friend,” the stranger began, “because you know something? I like you.”
“You’re just saying that because you feel sorry for me,” the man answered.
The stranger thought for a moment or two before continuing, “When I first saw you this morning, I thought to myself, ‘there goes a lucky fellow’. You are wearing a nice coat, you look very well fed and, if you don’t mind me saying, you are carrying a particularly fine case.”
“This old thing?” said the man, glancing down at his brief case.
“You look very important. I suspect you have lots of important papers in your briefcase.”
“No. Just my sandwiches,” said the man.
The stranger laughed and the man smiled back at him.
Then the stranger asked the man to remove the sandwiches from his case. He said he wanted to see what kind of sandwiches they were. At first the man thought this was ridiculous, but as he had started to like the stranger, he took out the sandwiches.
The stranger looked at the little stack of sandwiches neatly wrapped in its cling-film parcel and held his right hand over them while he muttered something. And then he said something … well … very strange.
“Today, as you eat your sandwiches, your whole life is going to change.”
For a moment or two, the man was speechless and whilst he was still composing his reply, the stranger walked off, calling back, as he went,
“Remember … everything’s going to change.”
A little shocked, he thought about shouting the obvious question, ‘why?’, but the moment had gone, the stranger disappeared down the river bank and he was left standing there with his sandwiches in one hand and his briefcase in the other. Just then, he noticed a bench not far off, a little way along the bank.
He walked over to the bench and sat there for a while thinking about the encounter, looking at the sandwiches and thinking how ridiculous the whole conversation had been. But then, he wondered, what had the stranger done to them and would his life really change when he ate them? Of course the whole idea seemed very silly indeed and, he thought that he could easily test it out by eating a sandwich right now.
Sill thinking just how ridiculous the suggestion had been, he unwrapped the cling-film and picked up a sandwich. He was not hungry because he had not long before eaten his breakfast, but he took a bite anyway and as he did so, one of the swans swam over to him. He broke off a bit of bread and threw it to the swan. Before long, a little group of swans had gathered in front of him and as he thought about his life, taking an odd bite every now and then, he sat there, quietly feeding the swans.
When he eventually got to work, he walked in feeling just a little different. He realised, as he had fed the swans that it was a beautiful day and that the swans did make his heart sing.
“Good morning,” he said cheerfully, as he walked into his office.
“Is it?” muttered someone in response.
“Yes. It’s a beautiful day. The birds are singing, the sun is shining and it feels good to be alive,” he replied confidently.
He noticed one of the other people in the office looked up and smiled at him as he took off his coat and hung it on the door. Her name was Jane. He had worked with her for a few years and she was one person he had never really seemed to hit it off with before, so he felt particularly pleased.
That morning he could not help being cheerful. He was truly seeing the world a little differently. The troubles of the office seemed to fade as he got on with his work in good spirits and before long the morning had passed and it was soon time for lunch.
He was just looking out of the window thinking that, as he had already dispensed with his sandwiches, that he might simply take a walk in the park opposite, when Jane entered his office.
“A few of us were just going over to the coffee shop,” she said, “and we wondered if you would like to come with us?” she tentatively enquired.
He smiled and, for a brief moment, he thought back to the words of the stranger who had said that today, his whole life was going to change. ‘I wonder what he did to those sandwiches?’ he thought.